Airport upset for Deeside woman

Mrs Gooch's assistance dog  J
Mrs Gooch's assistance dog J

A Deeside woman who has autism claims she experienced “severe prejudice” when told her assistance dog might be prevented from returning with her from holiday.

Esther Gooch, from Aboyne, was travelling home from a break in Italy last month with her husband, three children and cocker spaniel J.

During a stopover in Vienna en route to Heathrow, Mrs Gooch, 45, remained behind while it was established if she could be accompanied by J due to the registration documentation approval for the dog required by the airport.

She said: “By this point I was incredibly distressed and was finding it difficult to communicate.

“I was very emotional and tearful.

“J has always been well behaved and many airport and airline staff, as well as members of the public, have commented on her excellent behaviour and her support for me.”

Mrs Gooch was eventually allowed to fly to Heathrow with J but suffered two panic attacks before the issue was finally resolved.

She is seeking a permanent change in what she describes as “discrimination” of certain airports towards assistance dogs registered with differing organisations, adding: “This would enable both myself and others to avoid such prejudice in the future.”

Mrs Gooch has written to West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie.

Mr Bowie said: “This was clearly an extremely distressing experience for this woman and her family.

“I have been trying to establish exactly what happened and why.

“My office is in contact with Heathrow Airport where officials are already looking into the case as a matter of urgency.”

A spokesperson for the City of London Corporation, which manages the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre, said: “Once we were made aware of the full details of Mrs Gooch’s situation, we were able to help her with bringing her assistance dog back to the UK as quickly as possible.

“Under law, assistance dogs which are not trained by an organisation accredited by Assistance Dogs International or International Guide Dog Federation are currently assessed on a case by case basis.

“We also have a legal duty to ensure that animals and pets entering the UK are free from disease, have had necessary treatment checks and that they comply with all EU and UK regulations relating to animal movement.”